Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Psst hey... wanna see something kinda cool?

In the interest of being a well rounded steelheader, I'm always on the prowl for information sources which can give me a feel for what's going on out there.

One thing I like to do prior to the spring runs is to keep tabs on the progression of snowmelt going on in the various Superior watersheds. But there's another reason I like to look at this type of information.

Migratory fish use all kinds of chemical markers in the water to navigate home, and part of what gives each river a "smell" all it's own are the unique soil compositions within the home watersheds. Sometimes in spring you can be driving along 61 and the water is a clear, sparkling blue (or a dark, angry, roiling green as often as not). Other times all you see for the first hundred yards or so out is a sea of reddish-brown stained water; the result of snowmelt or rain causing the rivers to rise and carry local sediments out into the Big Lake.

However it happens, even if I'm not looking forward to the prospect of fishing the chocolate yeti that day, it puts a smile on my face because this is all part of the process which calls the fish home. Which is all a roundabout way of introducing you to The NOAA MODIS Sattellite.

I was watching the images back around the 14th of March which is about when I first started to notice the "brown up" occurring in the St. Louis River estuary. That and I was looking for changes in the imagery related to ice-out and snowmelt. What I didn't notice at first was the sediment plume just starting to come out of the St. Louis, but primarily the Nemadji River. What follows is a pretty amazing set of images of that sediment plume being ejected out into the Lake (Click thumbnails for larger image - Warning, they are huge):

Keep in mind that the smallest feature you can see, (and I'm talking about the smallest dot you can find like one of the ice-floes below the pack-ice off Cornucopia WI there) in something like 900 feet across, which gives you some insight into just how large this plume is.

Couple fun facts for you as to the reasons why the plume is so large- The vast majority of the watershed lies in an area that used to be the bottom of a huge glacial lake. The average yearly sediment load deposited at the mouth of the Nemadji alone is 131,100 tons: 117,000 tons of silt and clay, 14,000 tons of sand. From 1975 to 1994, the Army Corp of Engineers dredged more than 1 million cubic yards of sediment (mostly sand) from Superior bay near the Nemadji River.

Those are some pretty crazy numbers and it affects natural steelhead reproduction in a big way; but more about that another time. I just thought the images, aside from being pretty spectacular, are really just telling the steelhead, "It's time to come home..."

Regards- NMF

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fishing Report 3-25-11

If you are like me you are getting anxious to get on the water.  We received a fishing report from the DNR at the French River Hatchery today and so far it is still to early to get into the rivers. Stay tuned as we hope to have weekly condition updates and fishing reports starting next week.  We also encourage you to post your own reports either through the comment section below or feel free to send via email.  We also encourage you to send in your steelhead photos!

"Currently anglers are fishing from the shore around the mouth of the French River with some success for Kamloops, on calm days.  All tributaries remain frozen, although some at the Duluth end of the shore have some water flowing on top of the ice."


Friday, March 18, 2011

03.18.2011 Update

All right, I know I said I was going to lay off for a bit, but the General stopped by this evening and dropped off a present for me in the form of freshly tied, small and medium sized spawn-bags; needless to say I got a little jazzed up... I fish a trib or two which never seem to clear up, consequently you better have a highly pungent offering on the end of your line or it just isn't happening.

Anyway, the recent warm weather has changed the game somewhat. I've noticed a few things which have me watching conditions on the ground closer than ever.

First, I walked outside Thursday morning to a veritable spring cacophany: The chickadee males were duking it out over territory, the cardinal males were singing to beat the band, and seemingly overnight the robins had come back in force, and the snow in my yard was blood-red with the destroyed remains of sumac seed cones. With the nearly full moon, I think the returning hordes took advantage of the easy food-source and fed all night - piggies... The local tom was in full strut tending his harem for the first time, and the eagles were engaged in their spring courtship. If you've never seen it, it's a seeming dogfight between males and females which would put the Duluth fighter wing to shame - No offense Bird Dog, I've just never seen two F16's lock gear belly to belly, tumble for hundreds of feet only to release, climb to altitude, and do it again and again...

At any rate there are a number of other signs of note: I noticed in the latest satellite photos a distinct "brown-up" occurring in the St. Louis estuary. There's still quite a bit of snow in the highlands yet, but this might change if the weather remains sunny. I also noted that flows on lower shore tribs have jumped. This isn't unusual on it's own, however stream temps have tanked at the same time, which tells me the melt is on. The infusion of cold meltwater to the systems are the only thing which causes this during such a rapid rise in flows. I think the big question now is how long is it going to take the snow in the uplands to decrease before the stream temps are able to start edging up? That's the million dollar question at this point. The lake ice has also retreated from the lower arm and out towards the Bayfield Penninsula based on the latest imagery.

Either way, fishing off the mouths has been quite good for kamloops and the steelhead can't be too far behind. Methinks 'tis time to strap on the modified bearpaws for a little tour...

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Time's a Wastin'!

Well everyone, in case you haven't noticed, it's MARCH! Which means that steelheading is just around the corner, even if it seems like the snow will never end. If you haven't already, it's time to get your gear together, patch those waders, finish tying flies or spawn, and quit dreamin' about seeing that first enormous square, spotted tail distorted by a boil the size of a garbage-can lid.

For me personally, I can't wait to step out of the car and get my first whiff of cedar mixed with balsam. To hear the sound of breakers over the the rush of snowmelt-laden water; or to see stars so thick I can't tell where the sky stops and water begins on the big lake.

Let's face it, whether you catch a fish or not, we are blessed with incredible opportunities every spring, and steelheading is so much more than simply fishing. We encourage you all to take at least one opportunity this year to pass along a little of what you know to the next generation. Whether it's a son or daughter, niece or nephew, or maybe it's the neighbor kid whose parent (or parents!) are away serving our country in the military; you can make a big difference in their lives.

As for me, it's time to change gears and shift into watch-mode. Nothing moving here yet, but I'm seeing the first hint of signs. The ice-out has already begun in SE Wisconsin, and is progressing north-westward slowly but surely. The male chickadees have begun singing their spring songs on warmer mornings, and the cardinals can't be too far behind. So I'll be keeping a much closer eye on conditions, my ear to the ground, and getting out actually scouting as time allows. You probably won't be hearing much from me over the next two weeks or so, but only because it's but the deep breath before the plunge. Until then, start getting ready because all to soon it's going to be time to, as the Hanson Brothers would say, start "Foiling Up".

I'll talk to you later, I gotta go put a fresh coat of varnish on the snowshoes, I think it's gonna be one of those springs...


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Trout Unlimited - Fundraising Banquet

To those who are interested, Trout Unlimited is having a Fundraising Banquet Saturday March 19th 2011.  It is being held at the newly renovated Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, MN.  Registration is a breeze on the website, here is a link: TU Banquet Registration

The event is open to all Trout Unlimited members.  They are also encouraging non-members attend.  If you are interested in meeting up with anyone from Minnesota Steelheader while at the banquet, please drop us an email (click here) with your contact information.  We hope to be in attendance.